The business was well placed in Knutsford to utilise various delivery methods: in the 18th century there were turnpike roads, the accessible sea port of Liverpool and a growing network of waterways. Then from the 1830s railways were built giving faster, efficient delivery of goods. Knutsford station opened in 1862 close to the nurseries. In the 20th century motorised transport took the place of horses and carts and provided a relatively cheap, efficient means of transporting plants. The nurseries were close to a network of greatly improved roads, including the M6 motorway which opened in phases between 1958 and 1972.
The oral histories mention large deliveries of plants and the collection of plants by town councils and local gardeners. The sections below give information on carriage and delivery in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Travel by road in the 18th century was very slow, the roads being rutted and muddy and made worse as coach and cart traffic increased. Cumbersome stage coaches drawn by four or six horses travelled at four miles an hour; the journey from Manchester to London took 4 ½ days. After 1784 journeys became faster with the introduction of mail coaches which carried passengers and goods.
Turnpikes were created in the latter half of the 18th century with sections of road maintained by local trusts which erected turnpike gates and collected tolls. The trusts used the income to pay for labour and materials to maintain the roads. A turnpike road of twelve miles between Macclesfield and Nether Tabley near Knutsford was built in 1769 and had three main tollgates. This road joined the turnpike on the original Roman road between Manchester and Chester.
Goods were sometimes left at posting house inns (such as the George Inn or the Angel Inn in Knutsford) for collection by the coach. In 1790, George Wilbraham Esq. paid 2s. 8d. for carriage by coach of a parcel of trees and vegetable seeds.
In the 1830s the Knutsford Post Mistress was Mrs. Ann Dakin on King Street. She despatched mail to Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and London as the coaches came through Knutsford on a regular timetable throughout the day and night. For example in 1828, the London mail was despatched at two in the morning to arrive at four in the afternoon. A good number of orders were sent by coach such as Aston Town Pears to C. Lindley in London or broccoli to Mr. Chubb in London. Other coach deliveries were dropped off en route to places such as Warrington, Macclesfield and Audlem.
The 1830s ledgers show that some of the more local orders were delivered by 'postman'. Mrs. Dakin will have directed the postman on horseback to deliver a package containing 2lb Early Stone Turnip seed to Sir John-Thomas Stanley at Alderley, and vegetable seeds and mushroom spawn in a canvas bag to Davis Davenport Esq. at Capesthorne.
Many goods were transported through the port including plants. John Harvey (in his 'Early Gardening Catalogues') shows a letter written in 1700 to Sir Willoughby Aston, Bart., of Aston Hall in Cheshire. Aston's son describes the package and transportation by sea of lime trees from London to Frodsham Bridge, which was the highest navigable point for sea going vessels via Liverpool. It was also written that the cost of shipping was £3 10s, amounting to nearly 50% of the net cost of the plants. The Astons became Caldwell customers.
The Trent and Mersey canal was completed in 1777, backed by Josiah Wedgwood to carry his pottery. He placed an order with the Nurseries which may have been delivered by canal boat, although there is no indication of this in the ledgers. Plants could be taken by cart a short distance along the turnpike to Wincham Wharf at Lostock Gralam, Northwich, on the Trent and Mersey canal. In 1791, a mixed order including bird cherries, privet and roses were sent to Wincham Wharf for an onward journey to the Knowsley nursery. The ledgers of 1833 and 1834 show that many orders were delivered using the canals, south to places such as Middlewich, Trentham or Barlaston and to Messrs. W & J Noble in London, who paid for two canvas bags in which to transport the vegetables.
The Manchester to Liverpool railway opened in 1830. It was the first modern railway in that both goods and passenger traffic were operated by scheduled locomotive hauled trains. The country entered a new era of passenger and goods transportation.
The line betwwen Altrincham and Knutsford opened in 1862 and was extended to Northwich a year later. It offered a new exciting delivery option for Caldwell's, although it has to be remembered that a further journey of transportation would have been necessary from the station of destination. Knutsford station would have had a goods office with a parcels receiving clerk to direct the plants on to the train. The guards van took smaller parcels but there were wagons for larger goods.